Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Marion Anderson

This morning an NPR report commemorated the 75th anniversary of Marion Anderson's famous concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  I was glad to hear the details, filling in some gaps in a history I'd known, vaguely, since childhood.

My mother admired Marion Anderson and spoke of her with such passion that her name became engraved in my mind at an early age. I learned that she was a famous talented singer who, because of the color of her skin, had not been allowed to perform at a major concert hall in Washington, DC. Mommy wanted us to know that such discrimination was wrong -- very, very wrong.

Another lesson Mommy wanted us to learn was about discriminatory groups like the D.A.R. (the Daughters of the American Revolution), S.A.R. (Sons of the American Revolution), and C.A.R. (Children of the American Revolution). When we were born, she said, application forms for C.A.R. arrived unsolicited in the mail. She tore up and discarded those applications. Although ancestors on both sides of our family had fought in that historic revolution, she didn't want us to have anything to do with organizations that would discriminate against people of differing races or lineage.

In the 1950's when the D.A.R. worked against immigration reform and a D.A.R. chapter in the southwest refused to allow a Mexican-American girl to carry the American flag in a parade, my mother was again outraged; she re-told the story of Marion Anderson and the D.A.R.'s refusal to let her sing in their hall. As a young Girl Scout at the time, I remember feeling empathy for that young flag-bearer in the southwest; she had been selected for the honor by her local Girls Scout troop, but the the D.A.R. had protested and spoiled that honor.

Today Susan Stamberg's report, "Denied A Stage, She Sang For A Nation" on NPR, was a pleasure to hear.  You can read it, or listen, at the NPR website:

Today I also looked at the DAR website, and I am happy to see many steps the organization has taken in attempts to right the wrongs of the past. I recommend the page, "DAR and Marion Anderson"

"The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution deeply regrets that Marian Anderson was not given the opportunity to perform her 1939 Easter concert in Constitution Hall, but today we join all Americans in grateful recognition that her historic performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was a pivotal point in the struggle for racial equality."

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